Development of antisense-mediated exon skipping as a treatment for duchenne muscular dystrophy

Hans Heemskerk, Christa L de Winter, Gert-Jan B van Ommen, Judith C T van Deutekom, Annemieke Aartsma-Rus
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 2009, 1175: 71-9
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a severe muscle-wasting disease caused by frame shifting and nonsense mutations in the dystrophin gene. Through skipping of an (additional) exon from the pre-mRNA, the reading frame can be restored. This can be achieved with antisense oligonucleotides (AONs), which induce exon skipping by binding to splice sites or splice enhancer sites. The resulting protein will be shorter but at least partially functional. So far, exon skipping has been very successful in cell cultures, in mouse and dog models, and even in a first exploratory study in patients. Current research mainly focuses on optimization of systemic AON delivery. Here we give an overview of the available mouse models. To obtain the most informative results for future clinical application, research may have to move from the currently preferred mdx mouse to mouse models more comparable to patients, such as the utrophin/dystrophin-negative mouse and the hDMD mouse models. Further, we briefly discuss two AON backbone chemistries that are currently in clinical trials for DMD exon skipping. We propose that different chemistries should be further developed in parallel in order to hasten the transfer of the exon skipping therapy to the clinic.

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